Rock: It's Your Decision
|Our Feature Presentation|
“”A stirring portrayal of teenage conflicts over music.
|—The film's tagline.|
Jeff Sims is a teenage Christian in conflict with his parents over his love for rock music. His mother has him see his local youth pastor and has him placed under contract to give up rock music for two weeks, and research whether or not it's good for him as a Christian. Jeff takes him up on his deal, and within a week he becomes increasingly fanatical and ends up alienating everyone in sight. The film ends with him giving a sermon about what he has "researched" about rock music, giving a list of several songs and bands and why they are "satanic" and "occultic", and that they are promoting sinful vices such as premarital sex, drug abuse, and even goes as far as to spring forth his homophobic views in connection with the music by saying that "some of them are admitted homosexuals". He then shatters a record against the podium and declares, "I've made my decision, what's yours?"
Problems with the film
Intention and audience
Due to the nature of Rock: It's Your Decision, an alternate Aesop interpretation of it (especially by today's standards) would be a cautionary tale about the social repercussions of fundamentalist Christianity. While there are still Christians out there today who believe all forms of popular music are evil, they represent a very small minority, especially back in 1982. If this movie was made in the 1950s, it would've made sense considering the early hostility to rock & roll music acts like Elvis Presley and Little Richard, but by 1982 most people who grew up listening to these artists (including those from the 60s and 70s) were the children of the parents who were likely opposed to those acts in the first place. The target audience for such a film would've been extremely low in that era, and more so by the 2010s. This makes the film's intention questionable about how the filmmakers were supposed to warn people about a genre of music if it would only appeal to a very small demographic of Christians about an issue that at the time was considered pointless by most mainline Protestant denominations.
“”Maybe it's a propaganda film on the flipside, it's about how Jeff's religion is turning him into a terrible person!
Jeff Sims is the designated "hero" of this piece of propaganda, but by today's standards (even by 1982's standards) many interpret Jeff's story as less of a movement against sin, and more about the tragic tale of a boy twisted by the controlling fundamentalists (his parents and youth pastor) in his life who ends up turning into a bigoted, hateful, religious fundamentalist jackass whose perceptions on life are heavily warped, and ultimately ends up driving away everyone who cared about him. When he does disown rock music from his life, he tries to force everyone around him to do the same and dumps his friends for listening to the genre. Even when he yells at his own mother for watching soap operas thinking they are evil, the movie still wants you to root for this guy. Alternately, since fundamentalist religion obliges people to be less tolerant of beliefs unlike their own, then Jeff, from a fundamentalist perspective, doesn't become a jackass at all, but a wide-eyed idealist and his insistence on forcing his views on other people isn't twisted or inappropriate behavior, but rather Jeff trying to warn his loved ones about the impending traps that will send them to hell. Some viewers (like the Agony Booth reviewer) have even interpreted Jeff as being a deeply closeted homosexual. The audience is meant to see his close friends, Marty and Melissa, as antagonists trying to tempt Jeff back into his old ways, but they make some valid points about him becoming fanatical as he repeatedly tries to push his new lifestyle choices on them and others. Melissa seems pretty justified in being angry with Jeff for canceling his plans to go to a rock concert with her (plans made three months in advance for her birthday) because of a deal with his youth pastor he made only recently. Threatening to take another guy to the concert may seem a bit harsh, but she does apologize for it later. Later, Jeff gets angry with Marty for playing rock music at a party he was hosting in his own house. Yet we're expected to take Jeff's side earlier when he refuses to let Melissa listen to a rock station when he's giving her a ride in his car.
Critical research failure
In the film, Jeff claims that rock music is a tool of the Devil because of specific mentions of the occult and Satanism found in the lyrics of many popular songs that are used to control people. He cites the titles and/or lyrics of several songs in an attempt to prove his claim; however, he ends up misinterpreting the songs' meanings, thus making his claims useless. Here are a few examples:
- "Evil Ways" by Santana — he completely omits the first lyric: "You've got to change your evil ways."
- "Dance with the Dragon" by Jefferson Starship — It's about the Year of the Dragon from the Chinese zodiac, not Satan as a metaphorical dragon.
- "Sympathy for the Devil" by The Rolling Stones — written from Satan's perspective, which has him documenting the various atrocities of man throughout history.
- "Dancing with Mr. D" by The Rolling Stones — Mr. D is death, not the Devil.
- "Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be" by AC/DC — It's about a self-absorbed man tormented by the woman he hooks up with and would rather be in hell — it's a metaphor, Jeff!
Jeff engages heavily in confirmation bias, as does the film itself. It rarely lets the other side have a voice and presents Jeff's arguments at the end in a format that doesn't allow for the other side to be explored. At no point is Christian rock even discussed, nor does anyone ask Jeff if artists without overtly demonic, sexual or blasphemous lyrics are equally wrong just for performing rock music. Jeff also claims that the rock music was trying to "control" him, and makes the point in his end of the film speech that in fact when people are at a rock concert and are swaying along, snapping their fingers, humming it, etc., this is an example of the music "controlling" them. It is never asked if the same is true of people who are moved to tears by classical music, or raise their hands and sing along when hearing church music.[notes 1]
- Of course being "controlled" by Christian music is good and new media is evil.